Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred works to manage public perception of the sport amid the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal and forthcoming punishment of the Boston Red Sox, he additionally has worked to continue evolving and improving the game.
Under Manfred, MLB has notably implemented a slew of rule changes that aimed to improve pace of play, and now the league is inching closer to utilizing an automated strike zone. Informally dubbed robot umpires, the system is expected to be used during Spring Training games.
Now, however, MLB appears to be considering arguably its most aggressive change(s) in quite some time, and as a result the postseason picture may look drastically different as soon as 2022.
According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, MLB is weighing the expansion of the postseason field to 14 total teams and thus a seeding system that would allow for some to handpick their opponent during a live TV special:
MLB is seriously weighing a move from five to seven playoff teams in each league beginning in 2022, The Post has learned.
In this concept, the team with the best record in each league would receive a bye to avoid the wild-card round and go directly to the Division Series. The two other division winners and the wild card with the next best record would each host all three games in a best-of-three wild-card round. So the bottom three wild cards would have no first-round home games.
The division winner with the second-best record in a league would then get the first pick of its opponent from those lower three wild cards, then the other division winner would pick, leaving the last two wild cards to play each other.
Under the proposed format, securing the best record in the American or National League would guarantee that team a first-round bye and presumably further motivate them to remain competitive throughout the course of the year.
At present time the team with the best record is guaranteed home-field advantage through the World Series.
Furthermore, the changes would place added significance on winning the division as that round exclusively would be played at home and against a handpicked opponent in a new best-of-three series. And being the top Wild Card team means hosting the first round at home.
MLB appears to be following in the footsteps of other professional leagues in breaking from tradition. The NBA recently considered an in-season tournament and changing its playoff seeding, among other initiatives.
Albeit for an exhibition setting, the NBA did switch to new voting for the All-Star Game and has begun televising the draft special for those teams.
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